In Defense of Royal Baby Fever

Whether you celebrate it or spurn it, the birth of a royal baby is historic.

(Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
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Whether you're celebrating the birth of the royal baby or you're spurning it (if you're the latter, British newspaper The Guardian has enabled a feature to turn off royal baby news on its website), the royal baby birth watch has reached fever pitch as palace officials announced that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has gone into labor with her and Prince William's first child.

The news broke that Middleton has gone into labor early Monday morning, after weeks that reporters had been camped out in front of Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital, where Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William and Prince Harry.

[PHOTOS: Awaiting the Royal Baby]

Yet they will have to wait a little longer: The only news that has come out since is that "Things are progressing as normal," according to a palace spokesperson, and that Queen Elizabeth has arrived at Buckingham Palace, where, per tradition, the birth announcement will be officially posted.

The birth of Kate and Will's child marks the first time since 1894 that next three generations of succession to the throne are all in line. The rule of primogeniture that gave male successors priority over their sisters is in the process of being scrapped, meaning Kate and Will's first born will be eligible for the crown regardless of gender.

[ALSO: Brits Betting on Royal Baby's Sex, Career Choice and Olympic Chances]

The duchess has also broken from tradition by not posting publicly the hiring of a full-time nanny. The baby will reportedly be brought to the home of Kate's commoner parents after his or her birth, as the prince and duchess's apartment at Kensington Palace is still undergoing renovations.

People love to hate on monarchies, but there still a case to be made for the tradition. In the last royal media storm, Kate and Will's royal wedding in 2011, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered his defense. And as Slate's economics reporter Matt Yglesias pointed out Monday, "12 of the top 20 countries by GDP per capita have monarchs."

And there is the economic boost the baby itself is delivering, with analysts at economic firm IHS Global Insight predicting a small but positive surge to the U.K. economy at large. Souvenir manufacturers have been pumping out the royal baby birth memorabilia, which ranges from the traditional ceramics to the absolute wacky. The Centre for Retail Research estimates the birth will bring in 243 million pounds (about $373 million) in souvenir sales, festivities and other media. Gambling firms have also capitalized on the momentum, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in bets on everything from the royal baby's name to his or her future career.

And that's not to mention the fuss the media is making over the event, with the foreign editor of ABC News telling the New York Times, "This is probably the most anticipated birth since the dawn of Twitter."

That's why perhaps the most historic news to come out of the royal birth thus far is how quietly it all started: Kate Middleton was driven to the hospital early this morning, virtually unnoticed by the press.


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